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Exodus - Week 3

April 22nd, 2020: Chapters 6-10

Image Credit: 7th Plague of Egypt, John Martin (1823), Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

Read and Discuss Chapter 10:1-29.

  1. Summary and notes on the 10 plagues from Barnes' Bible Charts. Not included: Earth, Wind, Fire, Water? Literal vs. supernatural.
  2. Patterns in the plague cycles: Where is Pharaoh physically located in each? Moses? Which ones come with a warning? As a surprise? Who is affected?
  3. Read Kugel excerpt on naturalistic explanations for plagues.
  4. Psalm 78:43-51 and Psalm 105:27-36. What's missing?
  5. Collective guilt and collective punishment. Is it morally right for innocent individuals to pay for the crimes of their societies? Consider: Slavery in America,World War II, the Holocaust, Climate Change, Ponzi Schemes, Natural Disasters, Mass Shootings. What’s the right balance between individual justice and corporate justice? Is complete justice even attainable?

Other Things to Discuss, time permitting.

  • Verse 6:9 [the Israelites] “would not listen to Moses because of their broken spirit and their cruel slavery.” Contemporary parallels.
  • Chapter 7:1 - "The Lord said to Moses, "See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet.
  • Magic and magicians in chapter 7. Aims, rituals & accomplishments.
  • From Neil Asher Silberman and Israel Finkelstein: " The saga of Israel's Exodus from Egypt is neither historical truth nor literary fiction. It is a powerful expression of memory and hope born in a world in the midst of change. The confrontation between Moses and pharaoh mirrored the momentous confrontation between the young King Josiah and the newly crowned Pharaoh Necho. To pin this biblical image down to a single date is to betray the story's deepest meaning. Passover proves to be not a single event but a continuin experience of national resistance against the powers that be." 

Questions to consider for Week 4 (chapters 11-15)

  1. In verse 11:10 we read that "the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart." What does this mean for the concept of free-will? Does God alter our thoughts and actions in order to promote his purposes?
  2. Chapter 12 gives detailed instructions for Jewish observance of the Passover feast. Consider how rituals and ceremonies evolve over centuries. Can you imagine a future world in which our Coronavirus rituals take on similar significance--i.e.If you wear a mask and wash your hands, you'll be spared. Oh, and don't leave your house (verse 11:22).
  3. In verse 12:28 we read that "the people did just as the Lord had commanded." This seems at odds with previous and subsequent interactions between God/Moses and the Israelites. Are people more obedient when they are frightened? Is this good or bad?
  4. Take some time to consider the logistics (and mathematics of moving 600,000 men (plus women, children and livestock). This is roughly the equivalent of the entire population of El Paso. What are the challenges? Is this miracle or myth? What might be the significance (from the later author's point of view) of this number? Also compare the size of the Pharaoh's army with that of the Hebrews.
  5. Verse 12:49 says that "There shall be one law for the native and for the alien who resides among you." Consider our own contemporary debate over the rights of immigrants vs. native-born citizens. What are the similarities? Differences?
  6. In chapter 13 there is a repeated emphasis on ritual and ceremony as education for children. But what exactly is the educational message? Why might it be important to later people?
  7. Chapter 14 describes the most famous event in Exodus, the parting of the red sea. Why does Moses need to use his staff in order for God to work? Extra Research: Google "naturalistic" explanations for this miracle? Are they satisfactory? Are they necessary?
  8. Chapter 15 consists of two "songs" -- the song of Moses and the song of Miriam. What's the function of music and song in historical tradition? Also note the language surrounding YHWH as a warrior-god. How do we square this with later Christian traditions of a "God of peace?"
  9. In verse 15:15, notice the mention of Edomites and Moabites and Canaanites (oh, my!). What are these people (much later and far away) doing in this song? What does it hint about the nature and origins of the song?
  10. Foreshadowing: The complaints of the people against God/Moses will become a much larger theme later in Exodus. We see it manifest a few times in today's reading, and especially at the end of chapter 15. Any contemporary parallels you can think of? Is questioning authority legitimate, or a bad idea, and in what circumstances?